Join Date: Jun 2002
Re: Batman: City of Scars
A lot of this is a repost from my post on BatmanFanFilms, so bear with me if you've seen it already.
I'm glad people are actually talking about the elements of the film. On BatmanFanFilm, people are mostly just talking about how cool it is that Batman and Joker are on film.
I have mixed feelings about this film. Partially because after working with Aaron on PATIENT J, I was involved with it for a while, and then ended up having almost nothing to do with it, and partially because I just have mixed feelings about it.
First things first though: CITY OF SCARS is a definite accomplishment. Anything resembling a professionally made project is an accomplishment in the fanfilm world. The production values are pretty darn good, what with the cave, Gotham City, the club, the carnival, and things like the ice cream truck and the batgadgets, bits that are almost just tossed in there to delight us.
The film generally looks very good. The atmosphere of the film varies. Sometimes the atmosphere is great. Sometimes its just average. But the film is hardly ever without at least some atmosphere, and that I really like.
The overall story is a bit mediocre. It's an odd mix of "A day in the life of Batman" and "Batman's most important experience ever", which doesn't always gel, but has an interesting tone. It has some intriguing elements, too, though some are never quite capitlized on. The film skims the surface of some pretty weighty and important themes. It has some substance, but the execution isn't always great, and a lot of it is very on the surface. Batman talks about things that we don't neccessarily get to fully experience during the film unless another character says the same thing. There's a bit too much tell VS show going on here. I would have loved, for instance, to have seen the murder of the councilman and his wife instead of hearing about it, as that would have let us see that much more of The Joker as well. I would have actually opened the film with that, probably. Granted, thats a bit more on the nose, but after all, we got to see the nurse scarred. That's a minor quibble, though, as it could go either way, and it still works in the sense of "If Batman doesn't stop him once and for all...". It's also, I think, an interesting, if unintentional connection to Batman's final confrontation with The Joker in PATIENT J, where The Joker implies that Batman has sacrificed innocent lives in order to prolong their relationship. So the story is decent, and it makes you think a little, which is more than a lot of fanfilms can boast. The dialogue is somewhat cliche in a lot of places, and generally a bit over the top. Like the comics, though, I occassionally appreciate the risk in that regard. Sometimes that works. Sometimes it doesn't.
Kevin Porter is a decent Batman. He certainly looks the part, a lot moreso than any other fanfilm Batman we've seen to date. He feels the part, too, and has great features in the mask. His Batvoice is decent, though he rarely varies the tone or cadence of it, so it tends to become a bit bland. His growl isn't layered enough to warrant that constant monotone, and a lot of emotion is lost for it. This isn't mean to be a slam on him, as I think with some more direction, he could be an amazing Batman. The costume, while well constructed...to me, it just doesn't work in the light. In the dark it looks amazing. And that may have been the intention. To make Batman this garish, odd figure in the light, and this dark, freaky thing in the shadows. Because that works well. Although...is he sweating through the tights at the carnival?
Paul Molnar is once again fantastic as The Joker. He's fantastic even when he doesn't have a great line to say. He's definitely more relaxed and easy here than he was in PATIENT J. I attribute part of that to him being free in Gotham to wreak havoc now, as he did become more relaxed at the end of PATIENT J when he escaped as well. I love The Joker's new design, with the muted lipstick, the mottled skin, and the new hairstyle. Interesting to see him in a different outfit, too. And Kudos to Paul for not Ledgering it up, and sticking with his original approach to The Joker.
I thought the actress who played Harley was very good. A lot of subtleties in her performance, which isn't easy with a character like Harley. She was vulnerable and crazy in her measure.
Some other random thoughts after my first viewing yesterday
Joker's attack on the nurse is an interesting idea.
I was not feeling Crime Alley. One of the few elements in the film that was not terribly atmospheric. Surely there's a better alley somewhere.
I'm not sure what the suit up sequence was about. It didn't really add anything to the film, it wasn't really any different than any we've seen, and it felt like something of an afterthought. Was it meant to be an homage to the movies? I guess it could have been a paralell to the thing with The Joker preparing. It was fantastic to see The Joker making his bomb, the bang gun, etc. I almost would have preferred it if The Joker had been silent for that sequence, but Paul's just crazy enough to make it work, regardless.
I like the sewer set, though I'm iffy on what footprings he was following, and how he followed them underwater.
The actress playing Montoya's performance was all over the place, she occassionally looked like she was afraid to be onscreen, and she had absolutely none of the edge that Rene has in the comics, which the dialogue in the film definitely required. For some reason, I couldn't figure out that was Detective Allen until the credits. I kept thinking it was Bullock or Bock (Why, I have no idea). Speaking of cops...I miss Commissioner Gordon. I get it, though, this is mostly just about Batman's world, not neccessarily all his supporting characters.
It was interesting to see Scarface and The Ventriloquist, though I kind of wanted to see Scarface go nuts with a machine gun, and say "Gatman" a couple of times.
I like the idea of a brawl for Batman, though Batman's fighting was a bit awkward in the bar. Also, why is Black Canary working in a villain's bar? Did I miss something somewhere in recent comics or ALL STAR BATMAN AND ROBIN?
I was disappointed with Zsasz's role in the film. Gone was the cold, intelligent sociopath who taunts Batman with his inablity to save the innocent. Now he's just a thug. I feel like this was a missed opportunity. Batman speaking of his long investigation into Zsasz was a bit pointless, as we never really saw a hint of it. However, the fight and Batman (almost) almost killing him was decent.
I liked the Batcycle. Wasn't crazy about it, but I liked it.
The batarangs were awesome.
Using the grapple to get rid of the bomb is cool. If I'm not mistaken, that's a nod to the animated series?
Very nice, Ross inspired gargoyle/rooftop shot at the end.
The kid killing The Joker was just kind of okay for me. It was a little hard to swallow him getting out of the ropes and whatnot.
Batman's speech at the end was a tad overwrought, and a bit too long, though there are some great moments there (is some of the dialogue directly from the comics?) I feel like the film should have ended full circle at the graveyard of the Waynes. You still could have had those great Gotham City shots toward the end afterward
I do feel that CITY OF SCARS needed a more nuanced story, a better script and some better acting, but it's an impressive accomplishment nonetheless.
Writer and Lyricist of GOTHAM'S KNIGHT: THE BATMAN MUSICAL
And if I'm right
The future's looking bright
A symbol in the skies at night